Symptoms of Cervical Foraminal Stenosis

Cervical foraminal stenosis is the narrowing of the hole (neural foramen) that the cervical spinal nerves go through as they come off the spinal cord and exit the spinal column. This narrowing is caused by osteoarthritis, which is the formation of bone spurs in the neural foramen. These bone spurs put pressure on the nerves going through the neural foramen and can cause significant symptoms. Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you are noticing symptoms of cervical foraminal stenosis.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.


The most common sign of foraminal stenosis is pain in the upper back, neck or shoulders, according to the Mayo Clinic 1. This pain may occur occasionally with certain activities or it may be chronic. Pain can range from dull and achy to sharp and burning. In more severe cases, the pain can extend into the hands and fingers. This occurs because the sensory nerves that bring information back to the spinal cord are compressed as they enter the spinal column. This compression causes the brain to sense pain that seems like it originates from the shoulders, arms or hands. This pain can be made worse by bending your neck away from the side that is giving you the most pain. Your doctor will likely take x-rays of your spine or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to look for cervical foraminal stenosis. Fortunately, there are prescription medications that may help alleviate this symptom.

Loss of Sensation

According to Medline Plus, you may notice a loss of sensation in your upper body 2. This can manifest as numbness or tingling. This occurs because the sensory signal from your arms to your spinal cord can become affected by cervical foraminal stenosis. This loss in sensation can make it difficult to perform your daily activities such as tying a shoe or writing. Seek medical treatment if you feel numbness and tingling in your upper body.


Cervical foraminal stenosis can also affect the neural signal coming from your spine through your spinal nerves and to the muscles in your upper arm. This will result in weakness in raising your shoulder, bending your arm, extending your arm, bending your wrist, extending your wrist or in shaking hands. Weakness is often a sign of more severe cervical foraminal stenosis. Your doctor may perform nerve conduction studies to assess the extent of this disease. Do not hesitate to seek a diagnosis and begin proper treatment.